The Ohio House unanimously passed House Bill 614 on Thursday, which seeks to reform the state’s unemployment compensation system.
In the bill proposed by state Reps. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) and Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville), it looks to modernize a system that was not prepared for the onslaught of unemployment claims this year.
Since mid-March, Ohio has seen over 1.3 million people file for unemployment benefits. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has only sent money to 686,000 people, which represents roughly 52 percent of people who have filed for government assistance, according to News5Cleveland.
The bill tries to fix Ohio’s unemployment system in four ways, according to Frazier’s press release.
1. The Modernization and Improvement Council will be created to meet bimonthly and evaluate the claim filing process and technological infrastructure. The bipartisan council will also examine ways to maximize the responsiveness for individual applicants and employers. An initial report will be created within the first six months of meeting and the council will review the report every six months for potential updates.
2. The ODJFS Director is required to create a written strategic staffing plan for employees who handle inquiries and a referral system for members of the General Assembly to report issues directly to ODJFS representatives in order to compile all information in one place.
3. ODJFS is required to have a complaint form in order to streamline the complaint process for constituents.
4. The Auditor of State is required to make recommendations on the efficiency of the claims process by examining specific metrics and reporting to the Modernization and Improvement Council.
“House Bill 614 goes above and beyond in addressing constituents’ concerns heard by all State Representatives, regardless of party,” Fraizer said. “I look forward to working with interested parties to make sure the system never fails our constituents ever again.”
When ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall testified in front of the Ohio Ways and Means Committee on May 27, she detailed the struggle with fulfilling people’s claims.
During her testimony, Hall said she was not here to offer excuses, and added that the wave of unemployment claims “has been unlike anything any of us have ever witnessed.”
Hall said Ohio’s low unemployment claims before the coronavirus led to the agency cutting staff members in an effort to save state resources.
“When this emergency began, only 553 people worked in unemployment, and our call center was comprised of only 40 full-time agents,” she said. “To put that in perspective, in 2009, during the last recession, 1,422 people worked in our unemployment office.”
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Zachery Schmidt is the digital editor of Star News Digital Media. If you have any tips, email Zachery at [email protected] Follow Zachery on Twitter @zacheryschmidt2.